By Paul Kennedy
Plans for a charity match billed as the Battle of the Stars: Messi and Friends vs. The Rest of the World Wednesday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum were scrapped when promoters sent out word late Tuesday that the event had been canceled.
The promoters immediately blamed Argentine starLionel Messi's unwillingness to perform his contractual obligation to participate as the reason the game was canceled.
"After hours of trying to convince Lionel Messi's management team to fulfill their contractual agreement and come to Los Angeles," said Todd Graham, the CEO of presenting sponsor El Padrino Spirits, "it is clear they have no respect for these fans and this market. We feel that this is a blatant attempt to defraud American citizens and businesses that sponsored this event."
Other players promoters listed as anticipated participants included Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Alex Song, Javier Mascherano -- all current Barcelona teammates -- plus the likes of Polish star Robert Lewandowski and Mexican stars Giovani Dos Santos, Gerardo Torrado, Jesus Corona and Marco Fabian. The latter was a curious name since he is in Mexico preparing with the national team for the Gold Cup.
Wednesday's game, plus a second game Saturday in Chicago, were both listed as sanctioned matches on U.S. Soccer's list of international matches.
Messi and the likes of Neymar played Tuesday night in Lima, Peru, in the second game of the tour. The all-star series kicked off with a game in Medellin, Colombia, over the weekend. The fate of the match in Chicago was unknown though early Wednesday morning the web site messichicago.com featuring a video of Messi promoting the game at Soldier Field was still up.
"In all the years I've been doing live events," added Ralina Shaw, the vice president of public relations for El Padrino Spirits, "I have never encountered a situation like this. It's unfortunate because the only losers in this scenario are the fans that were looking forward to the game, and the City of Los Angeles."
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